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XINHUA NEWS SERVICE REPORTS FROM THE AFRICAN CONTINENT

 

South African minister alleviates concerns over grant payment

CAPE TOWN South Africa (Xinhua) -- Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini assured on Tuesday that there is no crisis at the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) and that all eligible social grants beneficiaries will receive their money on April 1 and beyond.

Dlamini said she wanted to set the record straight and in the process allay the concerns and fears of social grant beneficiaries and ordinary South Africans who have been confused by the prophets of doom that “social grants may not be paid on April 1, 2017.”

She was speaking at a snap debate in Parliament on the looming crisis of grant payments.

There have been growing calls for Dlamini to resign over the so-called failure to deliver grants to more than 17 million beneficiaries.

Opposition parties have severely criticized Dlamini and the government for poorly handling the SASSA and Cash Paymaster Services (CPS) saga. 

They accuse both Dlamini and government of maladministration, incompetence and gross negligence. 

Early this month, the SASSA launched an urgent application with the Constitutional Court, asking it to extended its contract with the CPS for another year.

The same court ruled in 2014 that the contract was unlawful, and ordered the Department of Social Development to replace CPS by the first of April this year.

This has led to speculations that no grants will be paid to pensioners next month.

President Jacob Zuma intervened last week, saying he is confident social grant beneficiaries will be paid next month.

At the parliamentary debate, Dlamini said the government has, without failure, been paying the right social grant, to the right person, at the right time and place since the SASSA’s establishment 10 years ago.

“We will continue doing so without failure on April 1 this year and beyond,” she said.

Today, South Africa is ranked as one of the countries with the most extensive and progressively targeted social security system. The number of people receiving grants increased from 2.4 million in 1998 to over 17 million to date, according to Dlamini.

This represents approximately 30 percent of the population. Majority of these grants are Child Support Grants (CSG) which exceed 11 million, Dlamini said.

“The opposition’s claim that there is a crisis at SASSA is therefore nothing more than a mere self-serving propaganda and political grandstanding of the highest order. They must stop with their scare campaign which has caused public panic and anxiety,” the minister said.

The SASSA’s mandate is to ensure the provision of comprehensive social security against vulnerability and poverty within the Constitutional and legislative framework of the country, Dlamini noted.
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UPDATE:

South African police hail hefty sentences imposed on 22 illegal miners

CAPE TOWN South Africa (Xinhua) -- South African police on Wednesday hailed hefty sentences imposed on 22 illegal miners, calling the move "a landmark moment" in the fight against illegal mining in the country.

This came after the Virginia High Court in Free State Province sentenced 22 convicted illegal miners to lengthy prison terms ranging from 20 to 22 years.

This is the first time in South Africa that illegal miners get lengthy prison terms.

"We hope that this precedent set by our courts will not only serve as a deterrent, but will also help us in our efforts to combat illegal mining even in other upcoming cases," Police Lieutenant General Mthandazo Ntlemeza said in a statement.

The 22 miners were arrested in April 2014 for illegal mining operation that started in August 2012 at Masimong Mine in Welkom, Free State Province.

They were arrested during an operation conducted by a security company and the Hawks, a special anti-crime unit while the criminals illegally occupied a closed mine.

Initially, all convicts were facing 843 charges. However, they were cleared on 266 charges and were found guilty on 577 charges on February 20, 2017.

South Africa’s disused shafts are a draw card for gold diggers from neighboring Mozambique, Lesotho and Zimbabwe.

According to the South African Chamber of Mines, over six billion rand (about 460 million U.S. dollars) is lost through illegal mining annually in the country.

About 70 percent of illegal miners are illegal immigrants, and about 14,000 people are involved in illegal mining in South Africa, the chamber says.

Illegal mining is also blamed for human tragedies.

In the most infamous case to date, 91 illegal miners perished after a fire broke out underground in a disused section of Harmony Gold Mining’s Eland shaft in South Africa’s Free State goldfields in June 2009.

The case attracted international attention and led to crackdown attempts by the South African government.
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EARLIER REPORT:

Zuma intervenes to defuse tension between
South African and Mozambican nationals

CAPE TOWN South Africa (Xinhua) -- President Jacob Zuma pledged on Tuesday to combat crime that is causing tension between South African and Mozambican nationals in communities bordering Mozambique.

The president urged the local communities of Mhlabuyalingana and surrounding municipalities of Mkhanyakude, Hlabisa and Jozini in northern KwaZulu-Natal Province to renew their trust in the police and work together with them to combat cross-border crime especially car hijackings in the area.

Zuma visited the area on Tuesday to meet representatives from the communities and hear their concerns amid tensions between residents and foreign nationals, the presidency said.

The communities have been hit by incidents of stock theft and cross-border hijackings involving Mozambican nationals who allegedly hijack cars from South Africans and drive them across the border.

Mozambican police authorities bluntly refused to return the cars, local South Africans complain to Zuma.

Zuma visited the local police station which he found to be severely under-resourced and also went to inspect the borderline between South Africa and Mozambique.

The president undertook to look into the issues raised by the community, especially the suspicion that some members of the police are alleged to work with the crime syndicates.

Cross-border corruption and bribery involving police are reportedly rife in the area.

Zuma urged the communities to provide information on specific cases of police involvement and avoid generalizations.

The president crossed over the border and greeted the Mozambican police and Mozambican residents living on the borderline and was greeted warmly by the Mozambican nationals, according to the presidency.

Zuma said South African national departments particularly of the Police, Defence, State Security, Home Affairs, Social Development and others would make a strong intervention after his visit, working with the provincial government and municipalities.

Zuma said South Africa enjoys strong and warm historical relations with Mozambique and crime should not be allowed to sour these relations.

The visit was part of the government’s intensified campaign against crime as tension between South Africans and foreign nationals increased.

The campaign is drawing all the spheres of government in unity towards eradicating crime and dealing with serious tension in the area between citizens and migrants or visitors from neighbouring sister countries, presidential spokesperson Bongani Ngqulunga said.

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Global Entrepreneurship Congress opens in South
Africa, role of small businesses in focus

By Ndumiso Mlilo JOHANNESBURG South Africa (Xinhua) -- The Global Entrepreneurship Congress (GEC) 2017 opened on Tuesday in Johannesburg by South Africa’s Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa with the aim of sharing ideas on how small businesses can grow and make positive contributions to their countries.

Over 5,000 delegates representing researchers, policy makers, entrepreneurs, investors and start-ups champions from over 170 countries are attending this 3-day congress in Johannesburg. 

Ramaphosa encouraged a robust discussion to solve the problems. He said, “Across the globe, entrepreneurship is a powerful tool for development. We meet to share ideas on how collectively we can generate inclusive development, restore humanity’s dignity and rekindle hope for a better tomorrow. We meet to discuss how we can effectively harness the energy of enterprise and the tools of technology to build a better world. It is an avenue for mentorship, knowledge exchange and investment.”

He said the meeting presents an opportunity to change the world. He called upon African entrepreneurs to use the congress as an opportunity to interact with potential global partners, engage with policy makers and business leaders.

Ramaphosa said entrepreneurs have a potential to create jobs, and he also called on governments to create procurement policies that support small businesses, to reform regulations and tax laws to promote the development of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

Entrepreneurs were called upon to embrace digital disruptions to grow their business and eventually the economies.

Ramaphosa said, “We must recognize that digital disruption is a cornerstone of a modern, diversified economy. It is digital disruptors who redefine the competitive landscape as they strengthen knowledge-based economies. Across the world, digital innovators are already bringing massive change in every market.”

Ramaphosa encouraged countries to put entrepreneurship in the school curriculum to help the youths grow up with that culture. He said fostering entrepreneurship at an early age will enable the youths to not seek employment but create jobs.

He also encouraged African entrepreneurs to form a network which will continue after the congress to promote the intra-Africa trade. Ramaphosa also encouraged the entrepreneurs of the world to exchange good practices and knowledge so that the continent could realize the dreams of Africa’s founding fathers for a a better one.

He said, “We invite entrepreneurs from our continent and the world to collaborate with entrepreneurs in this country to start sustainable, profitable businesses that will create jobs. We urge you, our creative and courageous entrepreneurs, to apply your minds to the challenges of our continent. Be with the children of Africa to realize the promise of freedom.”

South Africa has established the Ministry of Small Business Development which is led by Lindiwe Zulu. Zulu said the country is proud and grateful to be the first to host GEC in the continent. 

She said they have held meeting before the congress to ensure that there is continuity after they wrap their meeting on Thursday. Zulu said the legacy of the GEC should be seen with the results and what will happen after.

Jonathan Ortmans, Chairperson of GEC and president of Global Entrepreneurship Network, said they are happy to see the event being hosted in Africa. He said, “on behalf on international community present here, we are happy to be here to collaborate work and be inspired by entrepreneurs.”

Entrepreneurs will also have sessions where small businesses will pitch their business in the presence of funders to attract partnership, collaboration and investment. Some companies are also exhibiting at the same venue.

           

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